Morris throwing it down. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE.

While Phoenix Suns rookie PF Markieff Morris cannot and should not be compared to Amare Stoudemire for many reasons, we should all take a moment today to thank the Suns front office for recognizing a player who was better than his draft stock suggested by "reaching" for him at #13 overall.

Markieff Morris is the first Suns rookie to be picked for the the rookie/sophomore game, the Rising Stars Challenge on TNT tonight, since Amare 9 years ago. While Morris won't win ROY like Amare did, lets give him credit for being one of the top 9 rookies in the game this year. And remember, he was picked by NBA assistant coaches who know how to judge talent. Among his peers, he is 10th in points per game and 3rd in rebounding, blocks and 3-pt shooting %. And yet, those stats don't do him justice. He hustles, take charges, and plays with an attitude. His biggest problem is that he gets a lot of foul calls against him, which limits his time on the floor.

Let's go back to draft time, and see what the Suns front office and fans were thinking in June. Blanks hinted at picking a diamond-in-the-rough early on.

"There's probably a player at 13 that you might be able to get at 10 or 15 that could be just as good as a player drafted at five," Suns GM Lance Blanks said during draft workout season.

Markieff got on the Suns radar big-time when he battled Tristan Thompson in a pre-draft workout, the preview of which was written by a little-known but less-heralded blogger.

The final pairing is the biggest and most interesting. The Suns are desperately in need of a new Power Forward, and the two who figure to be most available at the 13 spot are battling each other on Monday in Phoenix - 6'9" Markieff Morris against 6'9" Tristan Thompson.

[Tristan] Thompson will body up against Markieff Morris who blossomed in his brother's shadow at Kansas, finishing his career as a guy works hard under the basket on defense and stretches the floor all the way to the 3-point line on offense. He is physically ready for the NBA but has probably already shown his entire skillset, whereas Thompson and Lawal are relative mounds of clay ready to be molded.

Morris has already shown flashes of a wider offensive repetoire than even his pre-draft videos show. He can hit a jump shot, but he's also shown flashes of driving to the hoop off the dribble and finishing on pick-and-rolls when called upon. His claim to fame, though, will likely always be on the defensive end. He is a tough one who will rebound and defend with the best of them one day.

I digress. Back to the pre-draft days.

Suns fans were not excited by the prospect of drafting Markieff at #13, as Eutychus echoed in this pre-draft article when it was rumored the Suns were down to Markieff Morris and Iman Shumpert.

Lastly #3 - Markieff? Really? I was pretty sure Marcus was the better twin... but maybe we are just destined to try a new lesser-twin each year until we eventually cut or trade them all.

This jaunt down memory lane is just getting started.

Even right before the draft, when the pick of Morris seemed a forgone conclusion, we couldn't wrap our minds around it.

My guess on order of faveness, considering only those who could be available:

Tristan Thompson - raw PF with great potential

Kemba Walker - leader, big-time scorer who could be overrated, and is dropping from top-5 lists as we speak

Bismack Biyombo - unknown, could be Wallace, could be pine-rider with 4 fouls every 4 minutes

Jimmer Fredette - who knows. Mark Price? Or Dan Dickau?

Markieff Morris - could be a Drew Gooden, or a nothing - not loved enough by BSotS to even garner a preview article

Iman Shumpert - is he the next DJ Strawberry? Or a new mold of 6'6" PG?

This order is just my guess. I'm also guessing that the Suns expect the first 4 to be gone, which is why they floated the Morris/Shumpert conundrum yesterday.

When Markieff really was picked at #13 though, the love began to flow a bit. At least, from many of us.

Another positive I can find is his toughness. He's scrappy, get's excited after making big plays and he isn't afraid to speak his mind. From this article he's quoted on talking a little trash to the number 2 pick in this year's draft, Derrick Williams -

"I didn't think he was as good as advertised," Morris said. "He got the benefit of the calls from the ref and we had to guard him different. He definitely had a good game against us, because we couldn't guard him how we wanted to guard him, and that's what happened."

So when he hears that Williams is a lock to go in the top two, Morris said, "It's still surprises me. What he did to Duke, he wouldn't do that to me or my brother [Marcus]. I'm dead serious. He wouldn't. At all. He's good. But if we was to work out, I would go at him and I would be able to stop him more than people would expect, you know what I mean."

I like. We need some attitude. Some toughness.

Interestingly enough, Morris will be taking on #2 pick Derrick Williams in today's rookie/soph game and playing alongside #4 Tristan Thompson.

Funny that two of the biggest rookie surprises - Morris and Shumpert - were Lance Blanks' two highest rated picks at #13. Maybe the Suns FO can pick well in the draft for a while. That would be nice. Blanks gushed about Morris every chance he got. He seemed to know what he was talking about.

Hit the links above, and then pour through the June archives a bit to see how we all reacted to the drafting of yet another unheralded twin.

June BSotS archives


In this week's episode of the Sunscast podcast we do something never done before -- mid-season grades for the players, coach and overall team. Go ahead and pick yourself up off the floor at that creative and innovative concept and give it a listen. It's fun times!

Podcast presented by SB Nation Arizona and Arizona Sports 620 and hosted by Bryan Gibberman and yours truly.

Subscribe on iTunes or stream online after the jump and you can find all the past episodes here.

Audio streaming..


Marcin Gortat is producing at a high level for the Suns, and at a very reasonable salary.

The NBA All-Star break gives the game's best players a chance to show their stuff on the international stage, the rest of the league's players the opportunity to take a break, and us fans time to contemplate and digest what we've seen from our teams during the first half of the season.

Over the next few days at BSotS, expect extensive analysis of the performance of Suns players so far this season. Who's performing and who isn't? What players have a bright future in Phoenix and which ones will be packing their bags at the end of the season?

Let's tip it off with a look at a measure of salary efficiency, an attempt to gauge how well players are producing commensurate with their salaries by calculating their salary dollars per each 2011-2012 season win share. The win share stat is intended to estimate how an individual player's achievements have contributed to a team's wins.

A full definition of how the stat is calculated can be found here. It isn't a comprehensive measure, but more so than simple stats like points scored or rebounds gathered per game since it includes a player's production in several categories on both ends of the floor.

In a salary cap sport, a measure of this type of player value is critical. Salary resources are limited and must be used wisely to have a successful team.

How do the 2011-2012 Suns players contribute based on their salaries? Who's pulling his weight and who's not?

Follow the jump for more.......

The disclaimer for any statistical measure applies to the following data. They will never tell the whole story and should be used in concert with watching the games to get a full understanding of their meaning. As we'll see below when we dive into these numbers, nobody would rather have Markieff Morris than LeBron James, and nobody thinks Ryan Anderson is a superstar, though the data will suggest each of those things when viewed in a vacuum.

Since I know we all love charts, here's a chart! This is the current Suns roster, their 2011-2012 salaries, total win shares so far and dollars per win share:

Win_shares_chart_suns_medium

(All salaries courtesy of ShamSports.com; all win share data courtesy of BasketballReference.com.)

A few things jump out to me from this list. Morris' 1.1 win shares are pretty good, for a rookie. He's an up and coming player and a bright young hope for the Suns, but he's not one of the team's best players yet. He rates so highly because he's on his rookie contract and makes a salary that is tiny by NBA standards.

Channing Frye rating so high and Grant Hill so low is an indication of how NBA stats still don't measure defensive contributions well enough and therefore overrate scoring. It also tells me that consistency isn't considered, as Frye's hot and cold nature is his biggest flaw. Still, Frye is a solid player, and his $5M+ this year isn't out of line, no matter how fans might curse his name.

Gortat and Dudley produce consistently, and they're both probably underpaid. This is why they're two of the Suns most value trade chips.

A note about why I used total win shares and not win shares per 48 minutes: the point is to measure bottom line production, so only total win shares matter. For example, if Nash and Hill miss games on back to backs because they need additional rest due to age or nagging injuries, that's not their "fault" per se, but this isn't about assigning blame. Production is production. Well, unless players would give back their salary in games they don't play, and that salary wouldn't count against the cap.

To put the Suns players in a bit of context, here's a breakdown of the top 10 win shares in the league so far this season. (Gortat is #20 in the NBA in total win shares.)

Win_shares_chart_league_medium

Is there any amount LeBron James could be paid that would be too much? It's hard to imagine one. Of course, there's that whole "can't win a ring" thing, but that's not going to last forever. There's not a fanbase in the league who wouldn't go nuts at the prospect of LeBron playing on their team. He's easily the league's best player, by any measure.

Kevin Love and James Harden are on their rookie contracts, so of course they provide fantastic value. And Ryan Anderson is.....hey, wait a minute. What the hell is Anderson doing on this list? He's not an All-Star and is only averaging 16 PPG but is doing so with amazing offensive efficiency. Again, win shares don't tell the full story, but Anderson is playing better than most fans realize.

And, just for fun, some highly-paid former Suns:

Win_shares_chart_former_suns_medium

None of these players are having great seasons. Amare Stoudemire has been inconsistent without a viable point guard until recently, and has missed some games due to injury. He's not producing well, and if it's an indication of his inevitable physical decline, does that make anyone less upset that the Suns let him walk? It does for me.

Turkoglu and Joe Johnson are simply overpaid. They're solid contributing players and JJ was selected as an All-Star, but they're both prime examples of players who are taking up too much cap space for what they bring to their teams.

What say you, Suns fans? Is this an illuminating way to look at player value? What stands out to you in this data?

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The rest of the NBA, like many Phoenix Suns fans, are calling for the franchise to free Steve Nash. Those wishes stem from the understanding that owner Robert Sarver and company need to rebuild and...

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If you aren't into statistics, this post probably isn't for you.

I view basketball as a game of 3 phases - offense, defense, and rebounding. Today, I had some extra time, and decided to try and translate that view of basketball into some clean-looking statistics. I've come up with 2 statistical measures of my own creation. I'm calling them "Points Created" and "NOSE." I'll explain below.

Now, there are two types of basketball stats - those that are driven by productivity (e.g. points per game), and those that are driven by efficiency (e.g. points per possession). Lately, the trend has been towards the latter, so I decided to buck the trend and go for the former. All of these stats are based on production per 36 minutes. I like this measure, as it approximates starters minutes for a good player.

Offense

We already have Points / 36 minutes and Assists / 36 minutes, courtesy of basketball-reference.com, but I wanted to be able to measure players based on their ability to CREATE offense, not just catch passes under the hoop and make wide-open stuffs.

To do this, I pulled in another stat available on hoopdata.com, abbreviated as %AST, which gives the % of shots for a given player which were the result of another players assist. In other words, they didn't create the shot - they just finished it. Then, with a little multiplication and subtraction, I split the point totals into two categories - assisted and un-assisted.

Next, I assigned a value of 2 points to every assist a player made. Finally, I added each players un-assisted points to this total, to create a statistic showing points created by that player. I define my new statistic, Points Created, thusly:

CREATED = [PTS - (PTS * %AST)] + (2 * AST)

Without further ado, here are your 2012 Phoenix Suns, by this measurement. Keep in mind these numbers are per 36 minutes, so they project totals as if all players had the same number of minutes.

TEAM Player POS PTS

UNAST

PTS

AST

PTS

AST CREATED
PHO Steve Nash PG 15.9 13.1 2.8 12.4 37.92
PHO Sebastian Telfair PG 11.5 9.0 2.5 4.7 18.37
PHO Ronnie Price PG 8.9 5.7 3.2 5.0 15.70
PHO Hakim Warrick PF 16.4 7.7 8.7 2.0 11.74
PHO Michael Redd SG 19.1 6.2 12.9 1.8 9.85
PHO Grant Hill SF 12.4 3.4 9.0 2.6 8.65
PHO Shannon Brown SG 15.3 5.4 9.9 1.5 8.45
PHO Jared Dudley SF 13.9 3.6 10.3 2.1 7.77
PHO Markieff Morris PF 14.0 4.1 9.9 1.8 7.66
PHO Josh Childress SF 7.1 2.7 4.4 2.4 7.46
PHO Channing Frye C 14.0 3.7 10.3 1.6 6.85
PHO Robin Lopez C 12.4 5.1 7.3 0.7 6.47
PHO Marcin Gortat C 17.0 3.4 13.6 1.0 5.38

No surprise, Steve on top by a huge margin here, and the other 2 point guards 2nd and 3rd, trailing by a wide margin. I was a little surprised by how poorly Marcin scores in my metric, but on second thought, that also seems to pass the eyeball test - most of his points come off of feeds by Steve.

Also, I didn't just do this for the Suns, I did it for all NBA players. Not surprising, Steve Nash is still on top of the list. Here's a top 20:

TEAM Player POS PTS

UNAST

PTS

AST

PTS

AST CREATED
PHO Steve Nash PG 15.9 13.1 2.8 12.4 37.92
NYK Jeremy Lin PG 22.8 19.0 3.8 8.9 36.84
CHI Derrick Rose PG 22.4 17.4 5.0 7.8 33.05
SAS Tony Parker PG 20.4 15.7 4.7 8.3 32.33
LAC Chris Paul PG 18.5 15.3 3.2 8.5 32.28
OKC Russell Westbrook PG 24.2 18.9 5.3 5.7 30.35
MIA LeBron James SF 27.1 16.6 10.5 6.7 29.99
NJN Deron Williams PG 21.4 13.4 8.0 7.9 29.15
BOS Rajon Rondo PG 14.4 10.4 4.0 9.3 29.03
WAS John Wall PG 16.4 13.6 2.8 7.4 28.44
CLE Kyrie Irving PG 21.7 15.5 6.2 5.8 27.12
CLE Ramon Sessions PG 14.7 10.3 4.4 8.1 26.50
MIN Ricky Rubio PG 11.8 8.7 3.1 8.7 26.11
TOR Jose Calderon PG 11.8 7.3 4.5 9.2 25.72
MIA Dwyane Wade SG 25.2 14.9 10.3 5.4 25.69
HOU Kyle Lowry PG 15.9 9.9 6.0 7.8 25.46
NYK Carmelo Anthony SF 22.8 16.3 6.5 4.5 25.32
DEN Andre Miller PG 12.7 8.4 4.3 8.4 25.21
LAL Kobe Bryant SG 27.3 15.8 11.5 4.7 25.21

I restricted the listing to players who've played more than 300 minutes. I was a little surprised by the rookies Rubio and Irving making the list, as well as that guy sitting at #2 on the list.

Defense

What I'd like to do here is to take a measurement of PTS Against and AST Against, and compare it to an average of averages for opposing players at the named position, netting out to show either that a player is allowing more or less productivity than their opposition's average.

Only problem is, I can't find anywhere out there in internet land where I can find any sort of PTS against or AST against for individual players or positions. Defensive statistics appear to be strictly a TEAM-only affair, at this point. NBA.com has a neat feature that allows you to get player versus player head to head stats, but that's the closest I could come, and like everything at NBA.com, it's all graphics and moving parts, and will take forever to get any real information out of. If you know where such stats might be kept, let me know. I'd like to do this section properly.

Change of Possession

This originally started out as "rebounding," the 3rd phase of the game, but I expanded it to include all the counting stats that enumerate a change in possession. I define the statistic thusly:

NOSE = REB + STL + CHG - TO - (FGA - FGM)

Essentially, then, this stat adds up all the times that a player gains possession of the ball for his team (REB, STL, CHG), and deducts from it all the times he lost possession of the ball for his team (TO, Missed Shot). The difference represents a snapshot of whether a player is adding or subtracting from the number of possessions his team has to work with, and shows the extent to which he makes that happen.

Why call it NOSE? It's short for "Nose for the Ball," which I think sums up this statistic perfectly. Also, it let's me say fun things, like, "Marcin Gortat has the biggest NOSE on the Phoenix Suns:"

TEAM Player POS FG FGA TRB STL TOV CHG NOSE
PHO Marcin Gortat C 7.2 13 11.1 0.8 1.7 0.69 5.1
PHO Josh Childress SF 3.4 7.4 7.4 1.1 0.8 0.42 4.1
PHO Robin Lopez C 4.4 10.8 8.7 0.7 2 0.18 1.2
PHO Markieff Morris PF 5.2 13.1 8.6 1.4 1.7 0.62 1.0
PHO Channing Frye C 5.2 13 8.6 1 1.3 0.23 0.7
PHO Jared Dudley SF 5.1 10.8 4.8 1.2 1.3 0.26 -0.7
PHO Ronnie Price PG 3.2 8.7 3.6 2.2 3.5 1.07 -2.1
PHO Grant Hill SF 4.8 11.6 4.5 0.9 1.9 0.55 -2.8
PHO Hakim Warrick PF 5.9 13.1 5.9 0.3 2.6 0.12 -3.5
PHO Steve Nash PG 6.2 11.5 3.1 0.8 4.1 0.30 -5.2
PHO Shannon Brown SG 5.8 15 3.3 1.6 2.1 0.21 -6.2
PHO Sebastian Telfair PG 4.3 13.1 2.7 1.8 2.9 0.31 -6.9
PHO Michael Redd SG 6.5 17.2 3.4 0.7 2.1 0.00 -8.7

Higher numbers are better, but a negative NOSE is nothing to be ashamed of, as the mean for this statistic would actually be in negative numbers (about -2). For instance, Jared Dudley's -0.7 is actually above average for his position, showing that he has a 'nose for the ball.'

NOSE appears to vary inversely with CREATE - the more one creates offense, the more likely they are to rack up the missed shots and turnovers, thus ending up with a smaller NOSE.

Following is a top 20 for the league:

TEAM Player POS FG FGA TRB STL TOV CHG NOSE
LAC Reggie Evans PF 1.2 2.6 12.7 1.5 1.7 0.09 11.2
POR Marcus Camby C 2.5 6.2 14.3 1.3 1.8 0.25 10.4
IND Jeff Foster C 2.5 4.7 11.4 2 1.7 0.30 9.8
TOR Aaron Gray C 3.1 6.5 13.7 1.4 2.5 0.14 9.3
WAS Ronny Turiaf C 1.9 1.9 7.7 3.9 3.9 1.26 9.0
GSW Andris Biedrins C 2.4 3.7 9.5 1.2 0.7 0.00 8.7
DET Ben Wallace C 1.2 3.2 9.2 1.8 1.1 0.68 8.6
CHI Omer Asik C 3.2 6.6 13.3 1.2 2.9 0.22 8.4
NYK Tyson Chandler C 4.2 6 10.3 1 1.6 0.42 8.3
CLE Anderson Varejao PF 5.2 10.2 13.2 1.6 2.1 0.55 8.3
DEN Kosta Koufos C 5 8.7 12.3 1.5 2.3 0.19 8.0
DEN Chris Andersen C 4.7 8.3 10.8 1.4 1.3 0.50 7.8
LAC DeAndre Jordan C 4.1 6.3 10.8 0.6 1.5 0.09 7.8
DAL Brendan Haywood C 3.6 6.6 11 0.7 1.5 0.26 7.5
DEN Kenneth Faried F 5.8 10.7 13.1 0.9 1.9 0.18 7.4
ORL Dwight Howard C 6.9 12.7 14.4 1.3 3.1 0.06 6.9
MIA Udonis Haslem PF 3.2 7.7 11.1 0.8 1.5 0.81 6.7
PHI Tony Battie C 2.5 5.7 9.7 0.5 0.5 0.18 6.7
CHI Joakim Noah C 4.2 8.5 11.8 0.8 1.9 0.14 6.5
TOR Jamaal Magloire C 1.3 4.1 10.8 0.1 2.1 0.41 6.4

Lastly, NOSE should not be confused for a defensive statistic. It strictly measures how many "extra" possessions a player gives his team (or uses up in futility).

Hope you enjoyed this. I had fun putting it together.


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